Spider-Man: Far From Home
Toy Story 4
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"The Cave" is an uneasy, mostly unsuccessful mix of old and new Hollywood, an old-fashioned monster movie with updated but unconvincing computerized effects. There are several different types of creatures in the film, and they are all pretty imaginative but the implausible CGI takes you out of the moment every time.
The film could have greatly benefited from some old school movie magic from an actual effects craftsman, but young filmmakers are rarely willing to take the road less traveled anymore. First-time director Bruce Hunt did the visual effects on the wonderfully ambitious "Dark City," so it's surprising to me that his debut feature would be this lazy.
There are some good moments here, most notably the thrilling death of Piper Perabo, which is easily;y the most exciting scene in the film. Still, this is always destined to be the cave monster movie that is not "The Descent." Beyond that one great scene, the film is very stiff and wooden, and the characters are very one-dimensional and typical of a film like this. For much to it, it's difficult to tell a few of the male actors apart.
Hunt fails to breath much life into this, and the film may have worked better without the creatures at all. It could have been strictly a "man VS nature" experience much like "Sanctum." The sad thing is that I did enjoy the final scene, a surprise twist ending that actually works and sets up for a sequel. It's almost disappointing that the film bombed because with the way this ends, the follow-up would have no doubt been more interesting than this film.
In that respect, "The Cave" does show some promise but its hindered by modern technology. If only someone had actually cared enough to put a little work and effort into it.
Normally, when filmmakers step outside of their comfort zone, I'm excited to see the end result even when it isn't entirely successful. Mel Brooks is one of the most renown and respected comedic filmmakers of the modern age, and "Life Stinks" is his attempt at making a socially responsible comedy, and the finished product is an utter disaster.
There are attempts at humor in the film, make no mistakes about that, with with Brooks you can count on either biting satire or goofy, go-for-broke sight gags. You'll find none of that here. Because of the subject matter. most of the humor is uncomfortable and it doesn't mix well with the paths and social commentary.
I can understand Brooks wanting to shine a light on a serious subject matter through the use of humor, but here the line between the two is blurred and neither is effective. The homeless in the film are fairly impossible to take seriously because they are written as kooky but lovable scamps. The upside of that is that it makes the preposterous relationship that develops between Brooks and bag lady Lesley Anne Warren palatable but still incredibly difficult to stomach.
There are also several basic contrivances with the story that are never fully resolved, but they do make for a happy ending in which everyone learns a lesson and is wiser for the experience. Everyone, that is, except for the audience of "Life Stinks." It's a definite departure for Brooks that still tries to retain the spirit of his earlier films, but the gamble misfires badly. It's a somber experience, and the lack of successful jokes make it even more unbearable.
Although it's one of the esteemed director's lesser-known works, "Empire of the Sun" is ripe with themes acquainted to those who love the works of Steven Spielberg and it feels very familiar. It's a worthy story centered around a conflict during World War II that not much is known about, and the filmmaker tells that story with the same passion and style that has become his trademark.
Unfortunately, I also found the film to be somewhat cold and uninvolving, with a lead character atypical of Spielberg, a precocious young boy played by Christian Bale. He's difficult to like in the beginning, a spoiled brat which I suppose is the point. But after the war is over and the lengthy film comes to an end, you don not get the sense that he's evolved any.
It's a rather unemotional journey, and you wonder what the point of it all was. The film seems to shelter Bale (and the audience) from the true horrors of the war, and a great many details are ignored which would seem to be quite important and relevant to the story. Most notably missing, in my opinion, is the Pearl harbor bombing which is only alluded to in the very beginning of the film.
It's clear that the filmmaker was trying to tell a very personal story against the backdrop of a global conflict, and these minor qualms could have been overlooked had I been better able to connect with the movie. Sadly, "Empire of the Sun" will remain one of the director's good movies among a great deal of great ones. Everything about it feels right but it left me rather indifferent.
You've got to feel sorry for Corey Feldman. After the big studio films dried up in the late '80's, the child star was relegated to making one or two direct-to-video features a year, but clearly no one told him that he wasn't cool anymore.
In the embarrassingly belated follow-up "Rock and Roll High School Forever," the actor seems to be reluctant to admit that the gold old days have come to an end with his ridiculous haircut and Michael Jackson wardrobe. Perhaps even sadder still is the casting of young actor Evan Richards, a blatant Corey Haim lookalike, to further Feldman's denial.
The film itself is a name-only sequel with virtually nothing in common with the original film (except for maybe a Ramones poster on Feldman's wall). The music is awful, the jokes are juvenile and any real story is non-existent, as this is your basic "rebels bucking the system" comedy where any actual laughs are nowhere to be found. The Allen Arkush film has hardly anything earth-shattering, but it did have a certain charm all its own.
In this, somewhat humorous names (like authority figures named after types of cheese) and amateurish pranks pass for comedy, and even though the Ramones were not the makers first choice to play in the original, you'll miss their style of music here once you see Feldman lip sync to "I'm Walkin." "Rock and Roll High School Forever" will disappoint just about every fan of every genre. It's completely humorless and terribly un-hip.
A lot of people tend to get very political over any movie that is even slightly political in nature, and upon its initial release, "Red Dawn" ruffled a lot of people's feathers for a lot of different reasons, the political angle being just one of them. Many saw this as right wing propaganda, but I prefer to keep any such ideas out of the equation and only focus on the film's quality (or lack thereof) and not the motivation behind it.
That being said, this is a completely preposterous although competently made "What If" scenario that leaves more unanswered questions than just that one lingering around after the conclusion. The motivations behind the joint invasion of our United States are vague at best, and you have to wonder if the whole thing could have happened as easily as it does here.
The scenes early on are effective, but you're still confused as to why the Russians would want to occupy this small, sleepy town in Colorado in the first place. The film could have been just goofy fun, and it is for a while, but too many nagging inconsistencies such as that kill any fun you might be having. The basic premise of the Cuban and Russian armies being upstaged militarily by a bunch of high school students is ridiculous, but John Milius is a skilled enough filmmaker that it could have worked. It just asks you to accept too much.
The young actors would all go on to great things, but they were all very green here and any moments when they are asked to act are mostly cringe-worthy. "Red Dawn" is a noteworthy and memorable film, but unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons.
Killer animal movies have been a staple of the horror genre almost since the genre began, but "Of Unknown Origin" offers up its own unique twist on that theme with star Peter Weller going mano a mano with a giant killer rat. In that respect, it's almost the "Die Hard" of killer rate movies with some better-than-average writing for a movie of this nature.
Weller is the glue that holds it all together, giving yet another one of his trademark quirky performances. His slow descent into madness is a lot of fun to watch as the battle intensifies, but the built-up is admittedly sluggish and filled with a lot of unnecessary plot developments.
George P. Cosmatos is something of a hack director and you can't help but think a more skilled filmmaker could have made this something even better. Still, the special effects are quite good, and credit must be given to the film for generating a lot of genuine suspense without much blood or gore. The rat is quite convincing and definitely revolting when it needs to be.
Also a lot of fun is the final showdown as Weller systematically destroys the home he so lovingly created as his descent comes full circle, but you certainly feel like things are wrapped up too abruptly. Despite a few minor complaints, "Of Unknown Origin" is a clever cat and mouse thriller in the truest sense of the words, a smart horror film that doesn't quite fit into the genre, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It has its own distinctive style, with a flair all its own but at the same time lacking a real punch to take it to the top.
There's a new breed of comedy that intends to make its audience uncomfortable as well as make them laugh, and there are many uncomfortable moments in "The Foot Fist Way." This is a very dark but sporadically riotous spoof in the vein of "Napoleon Dynamite" that features a domineering and hilariously vulgar lead performance from Danny McBride that would become his trademark.
If this had been more widely seen, his performance alone would have been enough to turn this odd little picture into an instant cult favorite. He has the uncanny ability to exude extreme confidence and complete stupidity at the same time, and that somehow makes you love and hate the guy simultaneously.
It's quite funny and weirdly subtle, but there are a few outlandish and over-the-top moments that gets the biggest laughs here, such as when one of McBride's biggest students brutalizes one of his oldest. It's an obvious gag that nevertheless surprises, punctuated by the star asking his student if she's dead afterwards. That is typical of the level of humor we're dealing with here, and while a lot of it will make you squirm and turn away, I laughed more than I'd care to admit.
When a rival for his wife's affections shows up in the second half, the film becomes even darker still and even more uneasy, but there seems to be a swell recently in that kind of entertainment. "The Foot Fist Way" will not be everybody's idea of what a comedy should be, but adventurous movie lovers may respond to it. It's unique, odd and fitfully funny with a magnetic lead performance from McBride.
For a simple stoner comedy, "Bio-Dome" has a pretty high concept plot and a lot of ridiculous messages about saving the environment even though it's nothing more than yet another moron movie. Back in the 1990's, there was a big push to make Pauly Shore a movie star whether audiences wanted him or not, and thankfully, most of his films were soundly rejected.
Shore's movies were mostly made for people who found Adam Sandler's brand of humor too high brow, and this one plays like something even Sandler would have passed on. It follows the same formula, and much of the alleged humor feels improvised, especially from the star and his sidekick, played by Stephen Baldwin. In many scenes, Shore seems to be having a hard time laughing, a sure sign that he's hearing much of this for the first time.
All I can say is that I'm glad someone was having fun with this dim, idiotic material. There's not one funny moment in the entire picture, and I imagine you would have to be very easy to please to find this anything more than just an insufferable mess. But, typical of movies of this nature, the two leads have impossibly hot girlfriends who for some reason find their inability to articulate sentences charming and they both become heroes in the end when they succeed in righting every wrong they've committed all in the name of "comedy."
In that respect, "Bio-Dome" plays like a fantasy for morons everywhere. It seems to suggest that the slacker lifestyle will make all of your dreams a reality, or maybe I just had too much time to over-think this dud during all the downtime when I wasn't laughing.
The best of Barry Levinson's films evoke a great sense of time and place, and "Tin Men" is a beautiful example of that, something that it accomplishes through the use of music and a terrific production designer.
This is the second of what's become known as the director's "Baltimore films," and it's a comedy with a lot of dark undertones bubbling just under the surface, another thing it shares with some of Levinson's best. This is a very satisfying film, filled with rich characters are situations both comedic and dramatic that hits close to home. Sometimes they hit a little too close to home, but the performances by both Danny DeVito and Richard Dreyfuss always find just the right tone to keep the film from getting ugly.
Dreyfuss stealing DeVito's wife all because of a traffic accident could have turned things sour, but the actors and Levinson's screenplay never allow that to happen. There are a lot of laughs along the way, although it is true that just as many of the laughs come from the supporting performers as they do from the leads. Jackie Gayle is a riot as DeVito's partner and gets a lot of laughs whether he is musing about the logistics of "Bonanza" or mindlessly raving about Dreyfuss' dancing skills.
The music puts just the right finishing touch on the picture, and not just the usual and expected hits of the '60's. There's also a lot of great music from up-and-coming band Fine Young Cannibals, who had yet to break out in America. "Tin Men" is a comedy with some serious underlying themes than enhance the picture rather than spoil the mood. It's yet another winner from a major talent.
You've got to have a pretty smart screenplay (perhaps written by someone like William Peter Blatty, for instance) to convincingly pull off a religious-themed horror film. The writers behind "The Seventh Sign" are clearly not operating at that level, and as a result this film suffers the same fate as many others just like it.
It's filled with enough ominous portents, hammy overacting and ridiculous imagery to fill two films, and because of that, none of this ever feels real. The story could have been interesting, but the directing here is so lackluster that the film just lies here, inert and sluggish. Carl Schultz has spent much of his career working in the television medium, and his feature never approaches the kind of urgency the material requires until the finale.
Demi Moore is just fine in the lead role, managing to capture the necessary vulnerability with just enough strength to make you like the character. The rest of the cast, on the other hand, is quite transparent including a less-than-chilling Jurgen Prochnow who actually becomes a hero of sorts after the big reveal. He disappears in the third act and is effectively forgotten about, so much so that it is quite jarring when he reappears at the end.
There are a lot of intriguing ideas here that are worth exploring in more detail, most notable how a handicapped killer on Death Row fits into the puzzle, but unfortunately, not enough is done with that. As a result, "The Seventh Sign" feels half-baked and unfinished, a rare film that may have actually benefitted from being longer. It has a lot to say, and a lot of ideas that never quite come together like you want them to. It also suffers from a distinct and painfully noticeable lack of energy.
It's not unusual for good movies to take the viewer on a roller coaster ride of emotion. "Three Fugitives" is by no means a good movie, but thematically, it's all over the map and tries for laughs and pathos, sometimes at the same time.
It's an uneasy mix and the end result is that neither the drama or comedy work well enough to cover up the nauseous feeling in the pit of your stomach that comes from the jolting shifts in tone. Take, for instance, the scene in which Martin Short watches his daughter in the orphanage through the fence once she is taken from him. It's meant to tug at the heartstrings, until the sprinkler water hits him square in the face. It's jarring and completely unnecessary, but it does sum up the basic problem of the film.
Unusual casting match-ups were a sign of the times in the 1980's, and teaming Short up with a gruffer-than-normal Nick Nolte must have sounded golden on paper. It comes across as less successful on the screen. The film also suffers from a severe logic deficiency. While I know this is essentially a comedy, the cops in the picture are unbelievably stupid, even more inept at their job than Short is at robbing banks. It's insulting after a while, as is the terrible score by David McHugh. The musical score is not something I normally notice in a film, unless it's this bad.
"Three Fugitives" is a mess of a movie with a good heart. It's just misplaced most of the time, and the audience suffers the consequences.
After so many years in the business, you have to believe that Steve Martin has experienced every kind of shady dealings and problematic shoots one can imagine. With the film "Bowfinger," he gets a chance to pour all of that experience into the single funniest screenplay he's ever written, a smart and hilarious spoof of the entire movie-making process.
The premise is about making a movie where the star doesn't know they're in a movie is based on an apparently real-life incident in the 1920's, but Martin works it into pure comedy gold. It's a resurgence for the actor, a return to form after a decade of flops and serious dramas that misfired, and Martin gives his best performance in years.
And then there's Eddie Murphy, whose career has had more ups and downs that perhaps almost anyone, at the top of his game here. He plays himself, and his twin brother, but it's wonderful without all the gimmicks, make-up and fat suits. He's great in both roles, some of the best work he's ever done partly because the script brings out the best in him but mostly because this project is such a perfect fit for his comic gifts.
There are a number of wonderful, laugh-out-loud moments here, most notably Murphy's scene on a very busy freeway and Martin quite literally rounding up his cameramen, but the film is genial rather than mean-spirited. Industry people will laugh knowingly, but it's definitely accessible to laypeople as well. "Bowfinger" is as clever as movies get, a riotous and good-hearted spoof with two very funny lead performances.
It wasn't until "Unforgiven" that Clint Eastwood gained a reputation for being a respectable filmmaker. Before that time, his projects were fairly hit and miss, and they were all pretty evenly divided into those two categories. As you may be able to determine from the forgettable title, "The Rookie" is not one of his better efforts, a lazy "Dirty Harry" clone full of tired cliches and even more tired writing.
Even Clint himself looks bored with this one. You can usually count on his hilariously grumpy quips and chemistry with his co-star, but all of that is in short supply here. In fact, there's such little character development and plot set-up that it feels like you walked in on the movie at the half hour mark.
Even the action, which is sometimes the only reason to see an Eastwood film from this era in his career, is lacking here. You get the standard shoot-outs and car chases, but for a movie dealing with grand theft auto, those are disappointing too. That speaks more to Eastwood as the director, and he doesn't appear to be too involved in this at that capacity either.
It's said he only agreed to make this so that Warner Brothers would let him make "White Hunter, Black Heart." It indeed feels like a throwaway project, but we should still should be allowed to expect more from the star. The villains here, played by Sonia Braga and Raul Julia, are quite unimpressive as well. There are a few laughs and a couple of mildly interesting action sequences in "The Rookie," but this will never be confused for one of Eastwood's better films. It feels more like an afterthought for the people involved.
The original film didn't leave a lot of new stories to tell, so the fact that we're now stuck with a "Pet Sematary 2" obviously had more to do with the desire for potential revenue than any kind of artistic reasons. This is a dismal sequel to a film that wasn't really all that great to begin with, filled with perfunctory performances and lazy directing.
Mary Lambert apparently overestimated the demand for this picture, feeling she could put out anything with this name on it and it would be accepted by the masses. The main problem with the film is the overwhelming sense of redundancy as this may be one of the most unnecessary follow-ups in film history.
In fact, this is more of a remake because there really is no new story to tell. The studio's desire for yet another commercially viable franchise apparently overshadowed that basic fact. They've upped the body count here, but that doesn't make it better. Screenwriter Richard Ouetten throws in a couple of truly disgusting scenes of dogs being operated on, rabbits being skinned and the aftermath of a kitten slaughtered for unknown reasons for no logical reason I could discern. It's a mess.
The Stephen King source material was dark, scary and completely unnerving, and Lambert could not convey any of those emotions in the first film. This is weaker still, and even farther removed from King's original vision. Even he had the good sense to distance himself from this debacle.
"Pet Sematary 2" serves no purpose other than for monetary gains for the studio. Maybe the makers should bury the horse they beat when they came up with this mess in the pet cemetery and revive that.
Very few times are horror fans treated with the respect that is afforded "Candyman," a wonderfully scary and exquisitely photographed picture the likes of which we haven't seen since "The Silence of the Lambs." It comes from the terrifically twisted mind of British author Clive Barker, and never before or never since has his literary vision be so well transcribed to the silver screen.
Bernard Rose was an unusual choice to helm the movie, but he brings a touch of class to the proceedings without ever leveling off on the terror or the blood. This is a truly frightening movie, one that sticks with you long after you leave the theater. The urban legend angle pulls the viewer in, and the film refuses to be just another grisly slasher film.
You never really know if the Candyman is real or just a figment of Virginia Madsen's broken psyche and that adds layers to this that you wouldn't find in most films of this nature. It culminates in one of the most shocking yet clever horror film endings in recent memory, just one more shining example of why this is so much better than we're accustomed to.
The legend behind the myth is fascinating, but the cold, harsh reality of actually filming this in Chicago's Cabrini Green housing project grounds the movie and makes it feel so very real. Rose was wise to enlist the amazing talents of composer Philip Glass to give the film one of the most memorable but haunting scores in the history of horror cinema.
For these many reasons, "Candyman" remains one of the scariest and most memorable films of its time. It's a movie, and a character, for the ages and remains as timeless today as ever.
Everybody loves a good David and Goliath story, and few people write a better one than author John Grisham. His legal thrillers have been the basis for many movies, but none have had quite the resonance of "The Rainmaker" in part due to a terrific screenplay, assured director and inspired cast full of some unlikely casting choices.
Or maybe it's the fact that it features a foe everyone loves to hate in the form of an insurance company that makes this so successful. Grisham has aligned himself with one of the greatest directors of the 1970's in Francis Ford Coppola, making a comeback of sorts with this glorious picture after the misfire that was "Jack." It's a terrific screenplay, a fine return to form for the esteemed filmmaker.
There are a number of questionable casting choices which prove a payoff, most notably asking a young Matt Damon to carry the picture. He has a charming, everyman quality that makes him easy to root for, and Danny DeVito and Mickey Rourke are also wonderful in supporting roles. Jon Voight is having a great year in part to this film as well, and he's a terrific adversary. The smart screenplay gives his character real depth, and Voight plays him to perfection.
There's a lot going on in "The Rainmaker," but Coppola pulls it off and turns this into one of the best courtroom dramas in recent memory. It was clearly designed to be a crowd-pleasing hit, but it's also skillfully made with some terrific performances. You never feel like you're being manipulated.
Unlike a lot of people, I believe there's good and bad in every genre, even for the "Friday the 13th" films, and for me the sixth one in the series, subtitled "Jason Lives" is a weak link in the chain. It restores the iconic killer to the horror throne after taking the last sequel off in spectacularly ridiculously fashion.
You have the love the irony in the fact that he's apparently finally dead until Thom Mathews (the third actor in the series to play Tommy Jarvis) accidentally brings him back to life trying to prove to himself that he's actually dead. Everything about this entry seems to shortchange the hardcore fan base, from the lack of character development (never the series' strong point, nevertheless even more lacking this time out) to the scares and the murders.
The gruesome death scenes have long since been the franchise's selling point, but this time out they are disappointingly tame and the film feels heavily edited. The only murders that register as being at all impressive or memorable is the back-bending death of David Kagen as the Sheriff. The rest of this feels like it's reading for airing on network television, and when you don't have spectacular gore in one of these films, what are you left with?
Sluggish direction and hit-or-miss acting is the answer to that question. At least the filmmakers did manage to secure shock rocker Alice Cooper to record a couple of songs for the soundtrack. That's one of the few things "Friday the 13th Part 6" has going for it. These films should be fun, but this is the first one in the series that drops the ball.
With the popularity of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" films at an all-time high, it seemed only natural that Robert Englund would try his hand at directing. Unfortunately, his first effort "976-Evil" is a huge disappointment trying to cash in on the long-defunct premium phone services that were all the rage in the late 1980's.
It's basically a pale imitation of Stephen King's "Carrie" and dozens of other similar films, with a bullied Stephen Geoffreys seeking revenge on his tormentors. The picture is light on horror for the first hour but heavy on "Elm Street"-like visuals which shouldn't surprise anyone considering who the director is. The problem, or at least one of them, is that Englund doesn't make much use of his single best asset, which is Geoffreys himself.
The actor is naturally likable, especially playing these lovable nerds, but the screenplay insists on putting more of the focus on his vastly uninteresting cousin, played by Patrick O'Brien. The plot is also quite confused and vague, having something to do with a Satanic phone line and committing murder through Satan's guidance, but none of that is really made very clear.
Still, it is the lackluster pacing that kills any chance that "976-Evil" had at being a successful film. Englund has a nice eye for detail, but his film is quite dull and forgettable where the horror elements are crammed into the final half hour. There's very little original or worth watching here.
Even though the movie opens with the slaughter of about a dozen innocent women and children, "Messenger of Death" is something of a departure for star Charles Bronson in a couple of different ways. First off, it begs to be taken seriously by dealing with Mormons and their beliefs, even though as the film goes on that angle proves to be a red herring into the investigation.
Secondly, Bronson plays a reporter and oddly enough doesn't kill anyone in the picture, although after about an hour of this dull and talky mess you may secretly be hoping for the actor's return to form. For all of its characters and plot developments, the motivation behind the crimes is disappointingly simple dealing with greed and land rights. All the good the movie does in trying to establish as something different is undone thanks to a weak script and casting of the supporting characters. Even the star looks bored through most of this.
J. Lee Thompson has made some of his better efforts throughout this decade, but this is not one of them. The filmmaker took ill halfway into the filming of this and was hastily replaced by the second unit director, and that shows. What little action is present consists of a couple of lame car chases and one of the worst shoot-outs in recent memory. It looks like it was choreographed by a blind guy. In fact, the entire film has the look and feel of a television project, especially when it comes to the lazy score.
"Messenger of Death" has a few minutes of promise that is quickly squandered as it descends into typical B-movie cliches and familiarity.